Star Wars (1977) plot summary

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away . . .

Palpatine, an evil Sith Lord, has overthrown the galactic Republic and become emperor of the new Empire. The Jedi Knights, an ancient peacekeeping order empowered and guided by the Force, have been eradicated.

Princess Leia Organa is a member of the Rebel Alliance, a group fighting to defeat the Empire and restore the Republic. She’s on a mission to bring Obi Wan Kenobi, an exiled Jedi living on Tatooine, to Alderan. The mission fails when her spaceship falls under attack by an Imperial star cruiser. Leia hides stolen schematics of the Empire’s Death Star, a powerful new space station, inside R2D2, a small droid, R2 and another android, C3P0 stow away in an escape pod and jettison to Tatooine.

The two droids are found by Jawas and sold to farmer Owen Lars. Owen’s young nephew and farmhand, Luke Skywalker dreams of leaving Tatooine and becoming a pilot like his late father. While cleaning the small droid, Luke stumbles across a partial holographic message for Obi Wan Kenobi. Intrigued by the beautiful young woman in the holograph, he thinks the message may be for Ben Kenobi, a hermit living on the outskirts.

When Luke discovers R2 missing the next morning, he and C3P0 search for him in Luke’s land speeder. They locate him, but encounter the hostile sand people. Ben Kenobi rescues them, and Luke learns Ben is actually Obi Wan Kenobi, a Jedi Knight. They watch the holograph in which Princess Leia implores Obi Wan to deliver the Death Star technical plans to her father. It’s hoped a weakness in its defenses can be found. Obi Wan tells Luke that his father, Anakin Skywalker, was also a Jedi, and he was betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader, Obi Wan’s former apprentice. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force and now serves the emperor. Obi Wan tells Luke he must learn the ways of the Force and go with him to Alderan. An incredulous Luke refuses, but agrees to take Ben to nearby Mos Eisley to find transportation. Realizing R2 and C3P0 could be traced to his family, Luke rushes home only to find his aunt and uncle murdered by Imperial storm troopers searching for the droids.

Luke now wants to become a Jedi and goes with Obi Wan. In Mos Eisley they meet Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon, and Chewbacca, a wookie and Han’s first mate. Han, a smuggler with a bounty on his head, agrees to fly the passengers to Alderan for a hefty fee. Just as they’re about to depart, storm troopers swarm the hanger, and the Falcon barely escapes.

Meanwhile, Princess Leia is captive aboard the unfinished Death Star. Darth Vader demands the location of the rebel base camp, but Leia resists. Death Star Commander, Grand Moff Tarkin plots a course for Alderan, and threatens to destroy Leia’s home world if she refuses to reveal where the rebels are hidden. Unable to sacrifice Alderan, she provides coordinates, but Tarkin blasts the planet to demonstrate the Death Star’s full power. The information Leia gave Vader is false, and he schedules her execution.

The Millennium Falcon arrives in the Alderan system, only to encounter the planet’s shattered remains. Han spots an Imperial fighter near a small moon, but Obi Wan realizes too late that it’s actually a massive space station. As they attempt to retreat, the ship is caught by a tractor beam and pulled towards the Death Star. There is no escape, but Han has a plan.